There's a show here called "Les Guignols de l'Info," which is like a cross between The Daily Show and SNL's news skit, but with puppets. Puppets deliver the news with a humorous spin, with skits of Chirac and Bush puppets, etc. Yesterday on the Guignols, the newscaster puppet interviewed a puppet of a Florida election official who was sporting a Vote Bush pin. The newscaster asked why nothing had really been done in four years to avoid voting problems. The election official replied simply that he was impartial and therefore couldn't intervene in the electoral process. But, asked the newscaster, while promoting democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, why isn't the greatest democracy in the world concerned about electoral fraud? Nothing to worry about, replied the election official. Why isn't there anything to worry about? Who's going to win the presidency? Oh, well I can already tell you that, said the official. Bush. But how do you know that? You haven't even counted the ballots. I'm impartial. It's not really any of my business to interfere with the ballots like that. *************** As you may or may not have heard, www.georgebush.com is not available to offshore surfers. That is to say, no one outside of the United States is allowed to view the contents of George W. Bush's election campaign site. A friend of mine said that wasn't that surprising because copyright concerns sometimes shut down websites to areas outside their jurisdiction. Then when I showed that www.johnkerry.com works perfectly, he said "no, that is really weird." ************** Despite that setback, I'm glad I'm not in the States during this tumult. I've heard some crazy stories about violence between supporters of Kerry and Bush. From fistfights breaking out at Ferry Street bridge to swastikas burned into the grass of a Bush supporter's house and Kerry signs destroyed in Rhode Island. People are thinking it's the end of the world if the other side wins. Watching the world from this perspective, however, it's hard to overestimate the significance of this election. Everyone is talking about it. I always knew my home country was important in the world but I never fully realized how much everyone is aware of what's going on in the U.S. The other day I gave a presentation on the Electoral College in my French class because the students, who come from a dozen different countries, were really interested in how exactly the president of America gets elected. Television here is flooded with news on the American elections and everyone is tensed for another 2000.
************* Last night I had a dinner party at my house. Two Gabonese, two Americans and a Frenchman all discussing the intracacies of the electoral process. I learned a new French expression: "The problem with the United States is..." It's such an integral part of the French language it doesn't really matter if you've never been to America or if you don't have any reason to know anything about America. It's just a national pasttime to figure out what exactly it is that's wrong with America. Because clearly, there is something wrong. It's just that no one can figure out what it is precisely, because it seems to be working so well... During the conversation, I couldn't help but think, not only how I would never get in a conversation about the intracacies of any other country's voting process back home, but that except for maybe France, the same group of people wouldn't be able to talk about any other country of which they had a common knowledge. U.S.A. and English is the common denominator in just about any international group of people. I understand that now more than ever. There's amazing power in that.